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Diabetes is Preventable

What is diabetes?

Nearly 29.1 million Americans have diabetes, a serious disease in which blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are above normal. Most people with diabetes have type 2, which used to be called adult-onset diabetes. At one time, type 2 diabetes was more common in people over age 45. But now more young people, even children, have the disease because many are overweight or obese. 

Diabetes can lead to problems such as heart disease, stroke, vision loss, kidney disease, and nerve damage. One out of four people do not know they have diabetes. Many people do not find out they have diabetes until they are faced with problems such as blurry vision or heart trouble. That's why you need to know if you are at risk for diabetes. 

What is prediabetes? 

An estimated 86 million Americans over age 20 have prediabetes. Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they usually have "prediabetes" that means their blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be called diabetes. People with prediabetes are more likely to develop diabetes within 10 years and they are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke

Diabetes prevention is proven, possible, and powerful. Studies show that people at high risk for diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by losing 5 to 7 percent of their weight, if they are overweight that's 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. Two keys to success: 

  • Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days a week.
  • Eat a variety of foods that are low in fat and reduce the number of calories you eat per day.+  

In other words, you don't have to knock yourself out to prevent diabetes. 

Have you wondered or possibly been told that you are at risk for developing diabetes or that you have prediabetes? To find out more about what things put you at risk, go to and read the Are You At-Risk Check List section of this website. If you haven't already done so, be sure to talk with your health care team about your risk and whether you should be tested. 

+ See Small Steps for Eating Healthy Foods starting on page 18 for examples of foods that are lower in fat and calories. 

How can I prevent type 2 diabetes? 

NDEP provides resources to help you make lifestyle changes to prevent type 2 diabetes. In addition, the National Diabetes Prevention Program led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers communities lifestyle change programs based on the landmark NIH-led Diabetes Prevention Program study. Participants work with a lifestyle coach in a group setting to receive a 1-year lifestyle change program that includes 16 core sessions (usually 1 per week) and 6 post-core sessions (1 per month). Find out more about the National Diabetes Prevention Program, including the location of a program near you. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) is jointly sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the support of more than 200 partner organizations.

This information is not copyrighted. The NIDDK encourages people to share this content freely.